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15 September 2016

Social program science, gut-bias decision test, and enough evidence already.


"The driving force behind MDRC is a conviction that reliable evidence, well communicated, can make an important difference in social policy." -Gordon L. Berlin, President, MDRC

1. Slice of the week: Can behavioral science improve the delivery of child support programs? Yes. Understanding how people respond to communications has improved outcomes. State programs supplemented heavy packets of detailed requirements with simple emails and postcard reminders. (Really, did this require behavioral science? Not to discount the excellent work by @CABS_MDRC, but it seems pretty obvious. Still, a promising outcome.)

Applying Behavioral Science to Child Support: Building a Body of Evidence comes to us from MRDC, a New-York based institute that builds knowledge around social policy.

Data: Collected using random assignment and analyzed with descriptive statistics.

Evidence: Support payments increased with reminders. Simple notices (email or postcards) sent to people not previously receiving them increased by 3% the number of parents making at least one payment.

Relationship: behaviorally informed interventions → solve → child support problems

“A commitment to using best evidence to support decision making in any field is an ethical commitment.”
-Dónal O’Mathuna @DublinCityUni

2. How to test your decision-making instincts.
McKinsey's Andrew Campbell and Jo Whitehead have studied decision-making for execs. They suggest asking yourself these four questions to ensure you're drawing on appropriate experiences and emotions. "Leaders cannot prevent gut instinct from influencing their judgments. What they can do is identify situations where it is likely to be biased and then strengthen the decision process to reduce the resulting risk."

Familiarity test: Have we frequently experienced identical or similar situations?
Feedback test: Did we get reliable feedback in past situations?
Measured-emotions test: Are the emotions we have experienced in similar or related situations measured?
Independence test: Are we likely to be influenced by any inappropriate personal interests or attachments?

Relationship: Test of instincts → reduces → decision bias

3. When is enough evidence enough?
At what point should we agree on the evidence, stop evaluating, and move on? Determining this is particularly difficult where public health is concerned. Despite all the available findings, investigators continue to study the costs and benefits of statin drugs. A new Lancet review takes a comprehensive look and makes a strong case for this important drug class. "Large-scale evidence from randomised trials shows that statin therapy reduces the risk of major vascular events" and "claims that statins commonly cause adverse effects reflect a failure to recognise the limitations of other sources of evidence about the effects of treatment".

The insightful Richard Lehman (@RichardLehman1) provides a straightforward summary: The treatment is so successful that the "main adverse effect of statins is to induce arrogance in their proponents." And Larry Husten explains that Statin Trialists Seek To Bury Debate With Evidence.

Photo credit: paperwork by Camilo Rueda López on Flickr.


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